New findings on the first Mass in Filipinas

For many years, including the time when Filipinas was still under Mother Spain, Filipinos have been taught that the first Mass in our country happened in Limasaua, Leyte (now Limasawa, Southern Leyte). As a backgrounder: Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes (popularly known by his Anglicized name Ferdinand Magellan) ordered a Mass to be celebrated on the small island of Limasawa on 31 March 1521. It was officiated by Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, OSA, the only priest of the Magallanes expedition. This event marked the birth of Christianity in Filipinas.

However, just a few years ago, a group of people started to contest this widely accepted historical record, saying that the first Mass really occurred in Butúan, Agusan (del Norte).

Vicente Calibo de Jesús, a media and communications practitioner, is one of the most vocal proponents of the cause to recognize Butúan as the site of our country’s first Mass. He has launched numerous petitions online to have his claim recognized. On his Facebook account, he has cited documents and even geomorphological arguments to back up his claim. Sometime during the last decade, when the country’s foremost historian Ambeth Ocampo was still in charge over the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (then known as the National Historical Institute), a committee headed by economist and historian Benito Legarda, Jr. was organized to re-examine the matter. However, in one public forum, Calibo de Jesús failed to attend.

“Since Mr. De Jesús refused to participate in the forum, why does he now contest the outcome?” Ocampo said.

After much deliberation, the NHCP/NHI then issued a resolution on 15 June 2009 affirming that the first Mass was indeed celebrated in Limasawa, Southern Leyte on 31 March 1521.

Ocampo retired from public service two years later but continued publishing history books and articles as well as giving popular lectures. The local Catholic Church quietly accepted the findings. Calibo de Jesús, on the other hand, continued his online attacks. But the controversy was almost forgotten.

Fast forward to last week, on the 5th of August. Jun P. Alvizo, a proponent of the Filipinas Quincentenario project, posted on his Facebook account digitized photos (see below) that were taken from the pages of the Anales Eclesiásticos de Philipinas1574-1602, asserting that Calibo de Jesús could be right after all.

Butúan’s assertion as the true site of the first Mass in the Philippines is not a fabricated claim or one without a substantive evidence. The truth on this episode, of the first circumnavigation of the world, has long been muddled by many historians when Limasawa in Leyte was proclaimed as the real site of the first Mass in our islands that was officiated by Father Pedro de Valderrama on 31 March 1521 (an Easter Sunday). Adding dubiety, the many investigations on this matter, conducted by panels constituted by the National HIstorical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), resolved in favor of Limasawa, obliterating the very truth where the first Mass in the Philippines was really celebrated.

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According to Alviza, these documents were obtained by the Filipinas Quincentenario from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila, and that even the late Jaime Cardinal Sin was knowledgeable about them.

Aside from these new findings, there were, in fact, old books dating back to the Spanish times that either questioned or contradicted the already accepted location of the first Mass in Filipinas. These are the “Episodios Históricos de Filipinas” by Felipe María de Govantes (Manila: Imprenta de Valdezco, 1881, pp. 21-22) and the “Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica” (Madrid: Real Sociedad Geográfica, 1897, vol. 39, pp. 135-136) to name a few. There was even one book, the “Historia de Mindanao y Joló” (Madrid: Viuda de M. Minuesa de los Ríos, 1897, pp. 661), in which the author, Francisco Combés, specifically mentioned that it was precisely in Butúan and in no other place where the first Mass in Filipinas was celebrated.

Allí fué precisamente, y no en otro punto, donde se celebró la primera misa, dicha en tierra, del Archipiélago Filipino.

It is unclear, though, as to how Combés et al. were cognizant of the exact site since all their books were published three centuries after the event. However, there could be one clincher: Antonio Pigafetta himself, the lone Italian chronicler of the Magallanes expedition who was also witness to the first Mass. In his account of the expedition titled “Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo” (Report on the First Voyage Around the World) published in 1536, Pigafetta actually mentioned Butúan four times. The account of the Mass is found in chapter two of his book.

Be that as it may, with the discovery of these old church records, could those “iconoclasts” have finally won their fight for historical accuracy, that the first Mass was indeed held at Butúan and not Limasawa? Or will this prompt the NHCP to organize another investigation?

The Battle of Tirad Pass: myth and reality

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In less than a month, Director Jerrold Tarog‘s “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” will premiere in major cinemas all over the country. It is a sequel to the 2015 sleeper hit “Heneral Luna” (also helmed by Tarog) which chronicled the life of temperamental General Antonio Luna. This time around, General Gregorio del Pilar will take center stage as actor Paulo Avelino portrays the so-called “Hero of Tirad Pass”.

Textbook Filipino History teaches us that only 60 Filipino soldiers defended the pass against 300 US troops who were out to capture “runaway president” Emilio Aguinaldo. Naturally, since they were outnumbered, the Filipinos lost. But according to historians, Goyo died a romantic hero’s death since he was the last Filipino standing. It was said that he fought the US invaders until his last breath.

In the language of Millennials, Goyo was a true LODI who had a different kind of WERPA. Biro niyó, ualá na siyáng cacampí, lumalaban pa rin. PETMALU😂

But is this account of the boy general’s death accurate?

There was an eyewitness account to what had really happened to the “Boy General” during the first few moments of the battle, and it appears in the diary of Telesforo Carrasco, one of Goyo‘s men. Here it is, translated from the original Spanish by none other than National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquín…

…we saw the Americans climbing up, only fifteen meters away, whereupon the soldiers started firing again. The general could not see the enemy because of the cogon grass and he ordered a halt to the firing. At that moment I was handling him a carbine and warning him that the Americans were directing their fire at him and that he should crouch down because his life was in danger — and at that moment he was hit by a bullet in the neck that caused instant death. I myself was also hit by a bullet in the hat that caused me no damage. On seeing that the general was dead, the soldiers jumped up as if to flee but I aimed the carbine at them saying I would blow the brains off the skull of the first to run, whereupon the body of the general was being removed to the next trench…

It is safe to assume that Carrasco’s eyewitness account of Goyo’s death is believable because Carrasco never intended to have his diary published in the first place. And he had no beef with the young general. Carrasco, although a Spaniard, was loyal to his Filipino allies, to the president, and to our country. He was not a writer. He must have kept a diary just to keep his mind busy, to fight boredom, during those lonely days of trekking and hiding from their pursuers. It was his children who had his diary published after his death. They commissioned Nick Joaquín to translate it into English.

Judging from Carrasco’s account, the boy general died not because of romanticized heroics. He died because of careless curiosity.

Now I’m interested as to how the movie will portray the Battle of Tirad Pass. Did Tarog stick to del Pilar’s dramatized death that was taught to Filipino students for decades? Or did he even consult Carrasco’s diary as reference? We’ll see on September 5th.

 

 

 

Estreno del documental “El Idioma Español en Filipinas” en la Casa Azul

Mañana (4 de agosto), a las 15:00, en la Casa Azul, nueva sede del Instituto Cervantes de Manila (a lo largo de la Calle Real, cerca de la Iglesia de San Agustín) en Intramuros, Manila, se proyectará el documental “El Idioma Español en Filipinas” del Señor Javier Ruescas de la Asociación Cultural Galeón de Manila. El documental presenta a Georgina Padilla y Zóbel de Mac-Crohon, Gemma Cruz Araneta, Manuel “Manoling” Morató, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Maggie de la Riva, un servidor, y otros prominentes hispanohablantes de Filipinas. El documental está en español pero tiene subtítulos en inglés.

La imagen puede contener: cielo, árbol, casa, planta y exterior

La entrada es gratuita, pero se asignará por orden de llegada debido a los asientos limitados.

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History Month 2018

August is History Month!

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Proclamation No. 339, s. 2012

MALACAÑÁN PALACE

MANILA

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

PROCLAMATION NO. 339

DECLARING THE MONTH OF AUGUST OF EVERY YEAR AS HISTORY MONTH, THEREBY TRANSFERRING THE OBSERVANCE OF HISTORY WEEK FROM 15 TO 21 SEPTEMBER TO THE MONTH OF AUGUST

WHEREAS, History Week is observed from 15 to 21 September of every year by virtue of Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974);

WHEREAS, there is a need to transfer the observance of History Week from 15 to 21 September to the whole month of August and rename the occasion as “History Month” to emphasize the most significant turning points in Philippine history;

WHEREAS, major events in the nation’s history occurred in the month of August which concludes with National Heroes Day on 30 August; and

WHEREAS, a week of observance is not enough to undertake various activities given the richness and diversity of our nation’s history.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO, III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare the month of August of every year as “History Month.”

Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974) is hereby repealed.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE, in the City of Manila, this 16th day of February, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve.

(Sgd.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III

By the President

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary